Papers of John Adams, volume 9

To Gabriel de Sartine

To Arthur Lee

From Alexander Gillon, 14 March 1780 Gillon, Alexander JA


From Alexander Gillon, 14 March 1780 Gillon, Alexander Adams, John
From Alexander Gillon
Sir Amstm 14 March 1780

I should have had the pleasure of answering your respectfull favour of 20th. past1 ere now had I not waited to have inform'd you what was doing here. The States are still sitting and I have reason to believe will not adjourn soon, various are the Reports of their proceedings but from what I am able to gather from there I can depend on.2 The Grand business is done between the Northern Powers on A footing very convenient to this Country as it must compel the English to quit interrupting the Trade of the Neutral Powers.3 Was I sure this Letter wou'd meet no Eye but yours I could say much on this pleasing subject but few Letters there are that pass into the direct chance without inspection. I shall however seek a private safe hand to write you fully on some very interesting matters that are now in Agitation and others that was put in Execution the 4 Instant. It gives me great pleasure to be Assurd of your Countenance and Aid and that you differ from Other Opinions on the propriety of any of the United States entering into such separate engagements as I am authorisd to make, it is A priviledge I hope every state will ever preserve pressure of enforcing their own Sovereignty. I thank you for your Advice on the Ships in Question, shall follow it and shall take the Liberty of acquainting you with the Result. I am with fervent wishes for your Wellfare Sir Your most Obdt. & most hble Servt.,

A. Gillon

RC (Adams Papers.)


Vol. 8:343–344.


The States General was debating its response to memorials presented by Sir Joseph Yorke, the British ambassador, on 22 July and 26 Nov. 1779. In the memorials Britain demanded that the Netherlands provide the 6,000 troops and 30 warships required under the terms of the Anglo-Dutch alliance of 1678 and later treaties, and declared that if the aid was refused Britain would treat the Netherlands as it did any neutral not bound to it by treaty. The British demand, like those made earlier by France, required a clear choice between belligerents, a choice the republic was unwilling and unable to make. In fact, by March 1780 any possibility that the Dutch 48would accede to the British demand had almost vanished because of the Royal Navy's seizure of a Dutch convoy at the end of December. With the deliberations of the States General seemingly promising nothing, Yorke presented a third memorial on 21 March that gave the States General three weeks to reach a decision. The memorial had no effect and on 17 April Britain declared that the provisions regarding wartime navigation and commerce in various Anglo-Dutch treaties, particularly that of 1674, were suspended (Charles Jenkinson, Collection of all the Treaties of Peace, Alliance, and Commerce, between Great-Britain and other Powers, 3 vols., London, 1785, 1:214; Edler, Dutch Republic and the American Revolution , p. 134–135; see also Edmund Jenings to JA, 19 March, note 2, below). For texts of Yorke's three memorials, which were widely printed, see, for example, John Almon's Remembrancer for 1779 (p. 167– 168) and 1780 (p. 333–334); and the London Chronicle of 29–31 July and 9–11 Dec. 1779, and 28–30 March 1780. For a general overview of Anglo-Dutch relations in 1779 and early 1780, see C. W. F. Dumas to the Commissioners, 27 Jan. 1779, note 2 (vol. 7:384).


JA copied this sentence and included it in his letter of 18 March to the president of Congress (No. 20, calendared, below). Gillon is referring to the diplomatic maneuverings that preceded Catherine II's declaration, on 10 March, of the principles of armed neutrality. Not until 3 April was a Russian memorandum calling on the Netherlands to join in a league of armed neutrals presented to the States General (James Brown Scott, ed., The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800, N.Y., 1918, p. 273–276; see also to the president of Congress, 10 April, No. 40, and notes there, below).